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Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC)
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Longbourn
Longbourn
by Jo Baker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
10 used & new from CDN$ 12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., March 27 2014
This review is from: Longbourn (Hardcover)
"It is a truth universally acknowledged" that one could fill a bookcase with prequels, sequels and other reworkings of Jane Austen’s novels. None of them would match Austen's quality, of course, but Jo Baker's "Longbourn" might come closest. This engaging and imaginative new novel focuses on the downstairs life at Longbourn, the house where the Bennets of “Pride and Prejudice” live. Refreshingly, the author does not attempt to imitate Austen’s style and actually pays little attention to Austen’s major characters. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet receive some fleshing out though Baker focuses most closely on the "help": teenaged Sarah and Polly and a newly hired servant, James Smith.

In great detail, "Longbourn" depicts the mountain of work that the servants face daily: James serves meals, cares for the horses and drives the Bennet girls around town; Sarah begins her day at dawn pumping water and ends it late at night after emptying chamber pots, washing clothes, cleaning the floors, running errands, helping in the kitchen, cleaning boots, mending dresses, fixing hairdos, lacing stays and fastening many buttoned gowns.

Baker also deftly compares the interests of the servants to those of the Bennets. It comes as no surprise that the residents of downstairs have little time to contemplate the Bennet's family affairs though one fact weighs on everyone's minds: they lack a son to inherit the house. Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, fears that when Mr. Collins inherits the house, he will bring with him his own staff, putting them all out of a job. Thus, downstairs sees his marriage to Charlotte Lucas, who knows and appreciates the Longbourn servants, as a blessing whereas upstairs Mrs. Bennet deems it a disaster. Similarly, Wickham’s marriage to Lydia, a serious evil to the Bennets, takes his lascivious eye off Polly, the little maid whose life would be ruined if she paid him as much attention as he paid her.

Jo Baker’s thoroughly researched description of the servants’ toil ultimately depicts a life now impossible to imagine. She also thoughtfully adds a back story of James‘ life as a soldier in the Peninsula War in response to critics who have complained that, though Austen set “Pride and Prejudice” during the Napoleonic wars, she paid them scant heed. Perhaps most importantly, “Longbourn” invites questions about why “Pride and Prejudice” still exerts such influence on writers and filmmakers. Possibly its characters, each with his/her own charms and difficulties, open the door to the imagination. At any rate, of the many literary rethinkings of Austen’s work, “Longbourn” ranks among the most rewarding.

A Gold Star for Zog
A Gold Star for Zog
by Julia Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.71
21 used & new from CDN$ 13.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., March 26 2014
This review is from: A Gold Star for Zog (Hardcover)
Zog desperately wants to win a gold star in his dragon classes. Unfortunately, flying classes result in a crash into a tree, a young girl has to offer him a peppermint after he scratches his throat trying to roar and an attempt to breathe fire ends with his own wing in flames! As a final test, Zog must capture a princess. When he struggles, the same young girl reveals herself as a princess and volunteers to be captured...only to admit that she wants to become a doctor instead! Will she realize her ambition? And will Zog ever receive his gold star?

Told in a fun, read-aloud rhyme, "A Gold Star For Zog" humourously weaves fanciful dragons and princesses into a relatable classroom setting. Donaldson deftly integrates the princess character into the story as, together with Zog, she illustrates the importance of aspiration, dedication and following one's dreams.

As usual, Alex Scheffler has created zany art filled with action. Flipping through the images of a class of cartoonish dragons in a rainbow of colours will brighten anyone's day!

Trucks Go
Trucks Go
by Steve Light
Edition: Board book
Price: CDN$ 10.79
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., March 26 2014
This review is from: Trucks Go (Board book)
The perfect book to read aloud while abandoning both self-consciousness and inhibition! The first page says: "The garbage truck goes 'BURBABA BURBABA BURBABA SCREECH! BEEP-BEEP-BEEP CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH'" and the book continues in such a manner for six more noisy pages.

All Steve Light's books in this series span two feet when open, providing a sensory delight for toddlers and preschoolers. Though neither fancy nor plot driven, "Trucks Go" provides entertainment and laughs for both individual readers and larger groups.

Sugarlump And The Unicorn
Sugarlump And The Unicorn
by Julia Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.43
21 used & new from CDN$ 9.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., March 26 2014
Be careful what you wish for: Sugarlump the rocking horse has grown tired of the indoors and wants to experience the world. But when a unicorn with sparkling blue eyes helps him break free into the great outdoors, he soon misses the children he left behind. Can the unicorn grant Sugarlump ultimate happiness?

Parents of boys: do not overlook "Sugarlump and the Unicorn" on the basis of its glitter, feminine colours and "girly" theme. My 3.5 year old son loves Lydia Monks's illustrations, combinations of hand-drawn pictures and photographic images of textures. Additionally, Donaldson writes in her characteristic, catchy rhyme and includes her famous choruses that children can learn quickly and recite throughout the story.

This magical story will enchant a broad audience, making it a must-have on any child's shelf. And, on a practical note, the glitter is somehow encapsulated on the page so it will neither wear off over time nor rub off on readers!

Diggers Go
Diggers Go
by Steve Light
Edition: Board book
Price: CDN$ 10.36
35 used & new from CDN$ 1.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., March 21 2014
This review is from: Diggers Go (Board book)
When open, "Diggers Go" spans two FEET and contains colourful pictures of noisy construction trucks busy doing their jobs. A mini-front loader graces the cover, a mini-excavator adorns the back and in between lie six giant vehicles paired with sound effects. The forklift goes WHIRRRFFFTT-BONK, the jackhammer goes KKAKKA-AKK and the bulldozer goes RRRUMBLE-SCRUUMBLE!

Any preschooler with a love of construction sites will enjoy this book; just don't expect it to fit into your purse or standard backpack!

Superworm
Superworm
by Julia Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.71
32 used & new from CDN$ 11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., March 20 2014
This review is from: Superworm (Hardcover)
From the phenomenal Donaldson/Scheffler team ("The Gruffalo") comes the new and charming tale of an unlikely hero. Superworm uses his super-long, super-strong body for inventive play in the garden; he effortlessly becomes a swing or a slide, a crane or a train! Better still, he valiantly uses his body as a fishing line to save a beetle from a well, then as a lassoo to rescue baby toad who has strayed into the street. When an evil adversary (wizard lizard) causes trouble, Superworm's small animal and insect friends band together to save the day!

This gem of a story has beautiful, detailed illustrations creating opportunity for interactive "I Spy." Simple rhymes make the words easy to repeat and remember and plot elements of humour, danger and a happy ending stress "Superworm"'s theme: with teamwork, everyone can make a difference.

Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well
Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well
by David L. Katz M.D.
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.24
29 used & new from CDN$ 17.05

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., March 16 2014
David Katz's basic guidelines for optimum heath will certainly not surprise the health-conscious reader: eat more plants and less processed food, quit smoking and move. To boot, those who frequently read up on nutrition and healthy living may learn nothing from the pages of "Disease Proof." However, what Katz lacks in originality he makes up for in attitude. He exhibits passion for whole foods and exercise but maintains a realistic tone, recognizing that life has room for both indulgences and prudent habits. Trendy cleanses and fad diets do not interest Katz; he would rather give readers the tools to live a vibrant and pleasurable life.

Katz walks his readers through healthy eating habits, exercise tips, and strategies for mental shifts that can release unhealthful weight, cease smoking, and increase physical fitness. He emphasizes "skill power" over "willpower": desire alone will not result in change; we need everyday resources, emotional support, organizational skills and confidence to turn that desire into reality.

While not the flashiest, catchiest, or most sensational book on the market, "Disease Proof" refreshingly opts for evidence-based sensibility. Other writers may demonize ingredients and share wildly alarmist claims but Katz uniquely balances science, strategy and wit to produce an empowering, informative read.

The Art of French Pastry
The Art of French Pastry
by Jacquy Pfeiffer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.84
27 used & new from CDN$ 26.57

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., March 15 2014
Part instruction manual, part personal history and part science lesson, "The Art of French Pastry" puts intricate confections within the reach of the experienced home baker. In his opening chapter, Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer lays out foundation recipes upon which he bases the rest of the creations in his book. He instructs readers on how to work with yeast, a piping bag, sugar, eggs, meringue, chocolate and fruit; then, he launches into five more chapters of stunning, meticulous recipes for eclairs, tarts, cookies, cakes and Alsatian specialties.

But even before Chapter One, Pfeiffer pleads home pastry cooks to throw away their measuring spoons and cups and weigh all ingredients on a digital scale. He displays equal passion for quality ingredients, extolling the virtues of European butter over lower fat American butter. For puff pastry, he recommends King Arthur all-purpose flour with a midrange level of gluten. Only whole milk (preferably organic) will suffice and any unseasonal fruit will ruin the finished product. Picky? Yes. But precision, Pfeiffer argues, results in perfection.

Every recipe begins with an estimate of yield and time commitment along with a section called “Before You Begin,” which lists equipment requirements. Each recipe also has a table of ingredients listed in order of use in addition to notes, tips, and both a reminder to weigh the ingredients and to read everything twice before you begin. And the chef proves correct: once broken down into steps, a four page recipe requiring two days of effort becomes logical, efficient and possible.

Geared towards neither the faint of heart nor the inexperienced, "The Art of French Pastry" provides beautifully organized, systematically written, and well-photographed recipes for those willing to commit. Jacquy Pfeiffer has truly mastered the art of teaching French pastry and his book offers readers the opportunity to become his students.

Richard Scarry's Let's Count with Lowly
Richard Scarry's Let's Count with Lowly
by Richard Scarry
Edition: Board book
Price: CDN$ 8.54
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., March 13 2014
My 3.5 year-old son has loved Busytown practically since infancy so this interactive counting book provides hours of quality entertainment. The first page features Lowly Worm alone (one) but flip the page and Huckle Cat joins him to make two. Soon, Wolfgang Wolf, Harry Hyena and the rest of the gang appear in the mix to teach preschoolers to count to ten. Each page features a numbered tab and contains interesting, vibrantly coloured details. Both kids and adults will spot something new with every flip through the book.

A fun way to work on counting and number recognition, all on sturdy board pages that can handle punishment from tiny fingers!

Would You Kill the Fat Man?: The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong
Would You Kill the Fat Man?: The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong
by David Edmonds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.12
38 used & new from CDN$ 12.44

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., March 8 2014
Is it justifiable to steer a train away from five people tied to the track when, as a result, an individual on a side track will perish? Is it morally acceptable to cause the death of one man in order to save five innocent lives? What about pushing a large man off a footbridge to block a runaway train that is hurtling towards five people tied to a track? In his provocative new book, "Would You Kill the Fat Man?", David Edmonds demonstrates the fun of philosophical discussions. He presents a number of thought experiments that pique interest, stimulate curiosity and "test our moral intuitions." Although some of Edmonds' scenarios sound far-fetched, they succeed in motivating us to ponder complex ethical issues.

"Would You Kill the Fat Man?" provides an immensely pleasurable read. Neither ponderous nor pretentious, Edmonds explains technical terms such as the "Doctrine of Double Effect" clearly and concisely. In addition, he deftly mixes law, evolutionary biology, linguistics, medicine, psychology, and sociology in his effort to explain why we act as we do. Do we make specific moral distinctions instinctually? Does a person's geographical/cultural background influence his/her behaviour? Finally, the author includes intriguing anecdotes about figures like Winston Churchill, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman, all of whom had to make extremely controversial decisions.

The book does not supply conclusive answers though it does have practical implications. Soldiers might have to attack a military installation, knowing they might kill civilians in the process; agencies invade people's privacy with hopes of foiling terrorist plots; law enforcement officials deceive suspects to make them reveal vital information. Every day, in both dramatic and mundane situations, each of us must make moral and ethical judgments.

No "one-size-fits-all" solution exists. Even if some convince themselves to push the fat man off the footbridge, for others, no rationalization could eliminate the guilt that might ensue. We all think, cry and laugh differently; we all have memories and, in most cases, feel empathy for others. "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" ultimately encourages us to reflect on Kant's statement: "Persons must never be treated merely as a means to some other end."

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